News & Events

William C. Banks Reviews Use of National Guard in a Homeland Crisis for The Detroit News

Whitmer seeks broader authority to deploy National Guard for crisis response

(The Detroit News | March 19, 2020) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday formally requested authority from President Donald Trump to expand use of the National Guard in Michigan by calling up members to aid in the humanitarian response to the coronavirus outbreak on the federal dime.

In a Thursday interview, Whitmer stressed that the National Guard would serve a supporting, humanitarian role and would not be involved in law enforcement or policing …

… The National Governors Association sent a similar Title 32 request to Esper on behalf of its membership Thursday, asking that he mobilize the National Guard to federal status.

“We believe that this authority, in support of the current National Emergency, will ensure more streamlined and operationally effective and responsive operations to support our communities and citizens in combatting COVID-19,” the letter reads.

The most efficient thing to do would be to grant the NGA’s response, since other governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo are making the same request individually, said William C. Banks, a professor at Syracuse University specializing in national security law.

“It’s a tremendous fiscal advantage for the state. It also enables the National Guard to do whatever they’re trained to do, including enforcing local laws if need be,” Banks said.

The National Guard was deployed in states under Title 32 authority after 9/11 and in response to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Banks said …

Read the full article.

 

David M. Crane Among Former Officials Challenging Pompeo’s Threats to the International Criminal Court

by Todd BuchwaldDavid Michael CraneBenjamin FerenczStephen J. RappDavid Scheffer and Clint Williamson

(Just Security | March 18, 2020) On March 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated from the podium of the State Department Press Room that two explicitly named individuals in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court would face possible sanctions in connection with the Prosecutor’s investigation of the Afghanistan situation, an investigation approved by the Appeals Chamber of the Court on March 5, 2020.  Set forth below is a statement by Americans who in the past worked to secure the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes):

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened two staffers of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and their families, with punitive sanctions in connection with the Court-approved investigation by the Prosecutor of the Afghanistan situation.  This act of raw intimidation of the Prosecutor’s staff members is reckless and shocking in its display of fear rather than strength …

Read the whole article.

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Surveillance Court Reform: William C. Banks Speaks to Sinclair About FISA

Officials warn against letting surveillance powers expire as FISA bill stalls in Senate

(Sinclair Broadcast Group | March 13, 2020) Three surveillance powers that U.S. officials say are vital to national security may expire Sunday night after Senate Republicans backed off plans to vote on a reauthorization bill under an apparent veto threat from President Donald Trump.

Despite vocal support for the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act from the Justice Department, Trump tweeted Thursday that some Republican senators were urging him to veto the bill “until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted ‘coup’ of the duly elected President of the United States,” presumably a reference to the FBI’s investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign’s ties to Russian interference efforts.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that investigation was legally justified, though special counsel Robert Mueller ultimately did not establish any conspiracy between the campaign and Russia. However, Horowitz’s investigators identified numerous problems with the FBI’s applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The law enforcement powers set to expire Sunday have nothing to do with the authorities used to monitor Page, but the legislation has become a vehicle for moderate reforms to the FISA process. Civil libertarians and the president’s allies say those changes do not go far enough, but Trump’s top law enforcement official disagrees.

“It is of the utmost important that the Department’s attorneys and investigators always work in a manner consistent with the highest professional standards, and this overall package will help ensure the integrity of the FISA process and protect against future abuses going forward,” Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday, urging Congress to pass the bill.

The House passed the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act on a bipartisan basis Wednesday, but the Senate adjourned for the weekend Thursday without taking action …

… William Banks, founding director of the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy, said the changes to the FISA process in the bill would increase accountability for abuses of the system and require the FBI to disclose more information to the court.

“They’re the kind of thing most of us have wanted to see since these issues came to light,” he said.

Banks expects the House bill will be passed by the Senate soon after it resumes work next week. With lawmakers focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and partisanship raging in Washington, he commended House leaders for finding common ground on a relatively contentious subject.

“Given the political climate and everything else going on right now, it’s nothing short of amazing they were able to get this far with a fairly decent and substantive FISA bill,” he said …

Read the whole article.

 

Students Can Apply to University Program that Provides Path into US Government Intelligence Careers

A new University wide program is creating a path toward public service careers for all Syracuse University undergraduate and graduate students interested in making important contributions to US and global security.

Syracuse University Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence

The University was designated by the US Intelligence Community (IC) last year as one of eight national Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (ICCAE), with a funding award of $1.5 million over five years. The IC is composed of 17 federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Security Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

With the designation and funding, Syracuse University leads a consortium of four institutions—known as the Partnership for Educational Results/Syracuse University Adaptive, Diverse and Ethical Intelligence Community Professionals (PER/SUADE)—to recruit and educate culturally and ethnically diverse, multidisciplinary professionals from many different backgrounds interested in the intelligence field.

As a federal award recipient, Syracuse University’s ICCAE adopts an inclusive definition of diversity that moves beyond demographics to include the broad range of perspectives—from military veterans, women in security, to those with different abilities—all of whom are needed for the kind of emergent challenges facing the United States and the world.

Syracuse University’s ICCAE consortia partners are the Grove School of Engineering, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Norfolk State University and Wells College. The ICCAE seeks to build career pathways toward positions within the Intelligence Community and increase capacity to attract and educate talented under-resourced students with diverse experiences.

Entry-level positions within the IC can be difficult to obtain without experience, but the program provides a step up for students interested in an intelligence career through unique experiences and specific coursework.

“There’s no question that it is in the vital interest of the Intelligence Community to have as diverse workforce as possible because its mission is to understand diverse populations and diverse activities taking place around the world,” says Vice Admiral Robert Murrett (retired), principal investigator (PI) on the grant and deputy director of the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law (SPL). “You can’t do that when you all look the same, have all the same points of reference and come from the same place.”

Interested students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, including historically underrepresented students, students from different areas of the United States, women, student veterans and students of all abilities are encouraged to apply to the program.

The IC needs a variety of people and perspectives to better understand the whole picture of intelligence that is gathered to keep the nation safe and increase peace and security globally, says Corri Zoli, co-investigator on the award, associate teaching professor in the College of Law, research assistant professor in the Maxwell School and director of research with SPL.

“No one predicted the Arab Spring [a series of anti-government protests in countries in North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010]. That was an oversight on the part of our intelligence agencies,” says Zoli, who wrote the award and designed the IC Center for Academic Excellence with former Dean of Engineering and Computer Science Laura J. Steinberg, who is also a co-investigator (CO-I).

The Hon. James E. Baker, director of SPL and professor in the College of Law and Maxwell School is also a co-primary investigator (CO-PI) on the award, and faculty from the College of Law, Maxwell School, College of Engineering and Computer Science, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Falk College and elsewhere are co-investigators, creating an interdisciplinary award. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Keith Alford and Suzette Melendez, faculty director of inclusion initiatives in the College of Law, are also co-investigators on the award.

“If you have diverse perspectives, the assumption is you’re not going to be missing huge swaths of experiences in the world because you’re going to have people who are more familiar with those places, those experiences, those communities,” Zoli says.

The IC also seeks a diversity of professionals in a variety of fields for its various intelligence operations.

“Each member of the US Intelligence Community has a different mission in the collection, analysis and dissemination of information relating to security concerns around the world,” says Murrett, also a professor of practice in public administration and international affairs in the Maxwell School. “Many of the organizations are part of US cabinet agencies or associated with military services.”

The IC is looking for professionals with both valuable functional abilities, such as critical thinking and speaking and writing skills, and subject matter expertise—along with the character traits of dedication, honesty, integrity and the ability to speak truth to power, Murrett says.

With so many professional opportunities in the IC, students from all disciplines across all of the University’s schools and colleges are encouraged to apply.

“For students pursuing a law degree, a master’s of public administration or international relations or a bachelor’s in public policy, they can do legal and policy analysis and planning at any of these agencies and develop intelligence policies that are both lawful and reasonable,” says Zoli, who explains the work of the Intelligence Community, including its covert operations, is based in US law.

There are opportunities for those interested in regions and area studies, international aid and human rights and those pursuing one of the critical languages designated by the IC, such as Arabic or Hindi.

“Anyone in the STEM fields who is interested in new categories of threat like cyberwarfare, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics would also be a good fit,” Zoli says.

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in the humanities—such as studies in culture, religion and philosophy—would be able to use their highly developed analytical skills in a variety of areas in the IC.

Zoli explains how each agency brings together professionals to work on initiatives that are improving lives and helping maintain security around the globe: “For the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, you could be working on mapping conflicts in the South Chinese Sea, looking at the best places for developing internet capacity around the world or counterterrorism spotting.

“The IC is looking for such a broad area of expertise that literally anyone who is successful in their academic degree program and wants to contribute to US security would be eligible,” Zoli says.

Students who are accepted into the program are required to take one of three core courses on the IC and two or more electives, and attend three ICCAE events per semester, including an annual symposium. Other opportunities include IC site visits in Washington, DC, study abroad, and networking and recruiting events with IC agency members.

Program members are also eligible to receive stipends to attend IC-related workshops, colloquia, conferences and participation in ICCAE program summer seminars, and may apply for scholarships. Students will also have opportunities to participate in IC internships and co-ops.

One upcoming event is the consortium’s Spring Symposium, which will be held Monday, March 2, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Hall of Languages, Room 500. Consortia partner faculty and students will be visiting Syracuse University from New York City and Virginia and panels will include teaching about intelligence, diversity experiences in the IC and faculty research. Speakers will include Julie Martin, chief counsel, National Counterterrorism Center, and Jonathan P. Gupton, with the Department of Energy. The campus community is invited to attend.

The benefits for students can be substantial. Along with networking and internship opportunities at various agencies, students will gain a deeper knowledge of the work that is done by the IC and why it matters.

“Students will have a better understanding of how the intelligence apparatus works from a national standpoint but also in other countries,” Murrett says. “It makes you a better citizen of whatever country you are from and better able to understand developments around the world around the contexts of the intelligence field and international security.”

For more information about the program and how to apply, visit the Syracuse University Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence website or contact Zoli at 315.443.4523 or cbzoli@law.syr.edu, or Murrett at 315.443.3682 or rbmurret@syr.edu.

Students Can Apply to University Program that Provides Path into US Government Intelligence Careers

William C. Banks Discusses Trump Impeachment Trial on KPCC

Impeachment Latest: Dems Prepare To Make Opening Arguments After Senate Sets Trial Rules

Listen to the segment

(KPCC AirTalk | Jan. 22, 2020) The U.S. Senate plunged into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses.

Trump himself said Wednesday he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony. He appeared to break with Republicans efforts to block Democratic motions to immediately call witnesses and subpoena documents. Instead, Trump said he’d like to see aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, testify as witnesses. Trump said he’d leave the “national security” concerns about allowing their testimony to the Senate.

Tuesday’s daylong session started with the setback for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the president’s legal team, but it ended near 2 a.m. Wednesday with Republicans easily approving the rest of the trial rules largely on their terms. With the rules settled, the trial is now on a fast-track. At issue is whether Trump should be removed from office for abuse of power stemming from his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter as Trump was withhold aid to the country, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

Today on AirTalk, we get the latest on impeachment as opening arguments are set to begin.

GUESTS:

  • Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News.
  • John Malcolm, vice president of the Institute for Constitutional Government and director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.
  • William C. Banks, professor emeritus of law at Syracuse University, he’s the co-author of “Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System,” (Carolina Academic Press, 2018)

World War III Alarmism: It’s Time to Press for Sober, Rational, & Contextual Analysis of the Iran Situation

By Corri Zoli

Let’s begin with the obvious to self-aware observers of the region: “Iran’s so-called retaliation was not smart, to say the least. It was theater for its gullible constituents, and the US seems willing to let it slide.” So said Hassan Hassan about Iran’s ballistic missile attacks on Iraqi bases (Ain Assad and Erbil), which house US forces.

“To state this point as clearly as possible: we are not on the verge of World War III with Iran, despite social media trends.”

Hassan directs the Non-State Actors Program at the nonpartisan Center for Global Policy, focused on improving Mideast governance and US foreign policy. As if on cue, however, Iran’s state media is reporting “heavy US military casualties.”

Hassan is not the only one piercing the veil of alarmism (largely coming from US observers), confusion and ignorance, and disinformation (coming from Iran).

Ali Vaez, Director of the Iran Project at the CrisisGroup, explains Iran’s need for “face-saving measures” and symbolic revenge. Likewise, Illan Goldenberg at the Center for New American Security (CNAS), decodes Iran’s strategy: “This is our response, don’t hit us back. Regional players stay out or suffer the consequences. This may not be escalation just the response they felt they needed to make. Again, everyone CHILL.”

Pentagon officials, as Jake Tapper reported, explain that “Iran deliberately chose targets that would not result in the loss of US life,” emphasizing “[d]eliberate targets, minimum damage, maximum warning/effect.” Even Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif is eager to announce the attacks as “concluded,” even while he justifies this newest round of missile attacks once again on Iraq (after the Dec. 27, 2019, Kirkuk airbase and December 31 embassy attack) as “self-defense.”

“Facing complex conflict dynamics also means we must be open to unexpected or countervailing developments.”

To state this point as clearly as possible: we are not on the verge of World War III with Iran, despite social media trends.

Quite the opposite, the US government has set limits—first economically, now militarily with the Soleimani strike—on Iranian regional escalation dynamics at least since 2017, which caused a bipartisan Congress to reissue sanctions. Historically and in recent years, Iranian asymmetric warfare—with Soleimani at the helm—has hurt stability in the region. It has also become increasingly brazen—targeting Saudi refineries, downing US and Israeli drones, attacking vessels in the Gulf of Oman, and going after civilians in Syria.

Reasonable people can disagree over whether the best US-Iranian foreign policy approach today is limit setting to reestablish deterrence, as per the Trump Administration, or appeasement, engagement, and integration into the geopolitical community, for the previous Obama Administration.

Every public policy—particularly in the demanding domains of international security and foreign affairs—has strengths and weaknesses. What is not fair or good faith analysis, however, is to ratchet up global public fears about impending war as a way to win support for one’s “side.” That confuses policy with politics, without doing the hard, nonpartisan analytical work of contextual analyses, producing facts and evidence, and trying to include multiple—often contradictory—perspectives.

Such an approach reveals a lack of genuine concern about the people facing conflict dynamics first-hand in the Middle East, those who already face extensive human rights violations and are currently protesting such conditions, caused most often by their own leadership and unaccountable forms of governance.

Just last month Iran faced what The New York Times called its “worst unrest in 40 Years,” with anti-government protests across 21 cities—not to mention across the region—followed by the typical “brutal crackdown,” with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps help, resulting in more than 1,500 protesters killed.

For deeper analysis of how Iran and Soleimani’s approach to covert asymmetric warfare destabilized and stalled progress in governance across the Middle East, there are plenty sources for thoughtful, contextual analysis. Hassan’s Guardian essay explains the blow in the defeat of Soleimani to Iranian regional hegemony, domination, and military imperialism. Such an ambitious project was already facing grassroots challenge in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria from cross-community protests. Moreover, Kim Ghattas notes that Soleimani was not only a problem for the US, but “haunted the Arab world,” so that his death has been greeted with often quiet “elation.”

Facing complex conflict dynamics also means we must be open to unexpected or countervailing developments.

Some analysts see the post-Soleimani moment as a win for the region, whether for a stronger Iraq, or a weakened Quds Force. Even non-Trump supporters—such as political risk analyst, Ian Bremmer—note that while there is no “end” to the US-Iran conflict, no “mission accomplished” yet, “for everyone who thought killing Soleimani was going to lead to war, no; it established red-lines and deterrence,” and, more importantly, potentially opened “ a real window” for diplomacy. Ultimately, Bremmer sees the Iran choice as a big “win” and a “big opportunity going forward.”

While it is a bit early to tell, scholars at their best have a public duty to pursue the truth wherever it leads—which may result in inconvenient facts and discoveries—but that ultimately helps to advance society in some way. As a cross-culturally focused law and security scholar, I believe that truth-seeking must include multiple and diverse perspectives, particularly needed to get a complete picture of “wicked problems” or complex social phenomenon, like conflicts.

Yet, the public should also ask hard questions about information accountability today, particularly as information technologies disrupt traditional news reporting standards and methods: why ratchet up ordinary Americans’ fears? Who is responsible and what is their motive for spreading such fear? Is it just to get “clicks” or are we purposely misunderstanding a situation that involves the most serious issues as war, peace, life, and death?

I won’t answer those questions in this analysis, but we all need to insist that public—especially expert commentary and journalism—elevates the discussion and that analysts base their claims in facts, evidence, and informed inquiry, particularly when understanding is such a priority in cases of active conflict.

 

Iran & LOAC: William C. Banks Joins ABA National Security Podcast

Iran and the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) with Bill Banks & John Bellinger

(ABA National Security Law Podcast | Jan. 6, 2019)

This episode references:

 

Newsweek Quotes Professor William C. Banks on Iran Retaliation

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER SUGGESTS FURTHER RETALIATION AGAINST U.S., SAYING STRIKES ON IRAQ BASES ‘NOT ENOUGH’

Newsweek | Jan. 8, 2020

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested Wednesday that Iran would take further steps to escalate tensions with the U.S., saying military strikes carried out against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq were not enough.

“They were slapped last night, but such military actions are not enough,” Khamenei wrote in a tweet.

However, the Iranian leader’s post appeared to counter previous remarks by Iran’s Foreing Minister Javad Zarif, which suggested that his nation did not plan to further retaliate against the U.S. at the present time …

… William Banks, a professor of law, public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, cautioned against further escalation in comments emailed to Newsweek.

“This is an escalation for sure but retaliation, revenge, or reprisals are unlawful at international law, not that Iran abides by international law,” Banks said. “The risks are that the U.S. will play along and some escalatory act will be disproportionate to the circumstances, leading to something far worse,” he said …

Read the full article.

 

The Soleimani Airstrike: An End to His Signature Middle East Strategy?

By Corri Zoli

Less well-known than Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden or ISIS’s Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, the covert Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani had widespread strategic influence throughout the Middle East. He was responsible for standing up and activating a clandestine infrastructure of organized armed groups from Hezbollah to Hamas and for ongoing instability and insurgency in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and elsewhere. It is for this reason that several terrorism scholars and expert observers—myself included—have identified the Soleimani airstrike as far more significant than that of Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

“Critics of this action will fixate once again on the Trump Administration’s strategy, positing the US as responsible for Mideast conflict and crisis. Some of these critics ignore Soleimani’s two decades of militant infrastructure-building.”

While the repercussions of his death for Mideast dynamics are still unknown, even in these polarized times, the defeat of Soleimani should warrant a clear-eyed recognition that his two decades of orchestrating a covert signature strategy for Mideast insurgency and instability has come to an end.

First, the facts as currently known. On Jan. 3, 2020, Soleimani—head of the elite, external clandestine Quds Force, a division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—was targeted and killed by a US drone airstrike, authorized by President Donald J. Trump. The strike happened as Soleimani and four Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) members—including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Commander Jamal Jafaar Mohammed Ali Āl Ebrahim (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis)—exited their aircraft at Baghdad International airport.

The five has just arrived from Lebanon or Syria, signaling coordination between Iran’s IRGC and the Iraqi-state supported umbrella PMF, often called the new Iraqi Republican Guard. PMF includes more than 40 largely Shia militia and terrorist groups, including Iran-supported KH, the Khazali Network, and Badr Brigades.

While some commentators have pointed to a post-US strike escalation of tensions, the drone strike that killed Soleimani and company was in fact a response to KH’s provocative 31 Dec., 2019, attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad—a breach of international law—and its 27 Dec., 2019, attack on the Iraqi K-1 Air Base in Kirkuk, which hosts US Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) personnel. During that attack, KH rockets—more than 30—killed a US civilian contractor and injured four US and two Iraqi military personnel. It is for these immediate precursor reasons that the Department of Defense has characterized the Soleimani strike as “defensive.”

Forgotten in recent news, however, were a series of highly provocative attacks since 2017 by IRGC across the region. Last year alone, these include the May 2019 Gulf of Oman oil tanker attacks damaged six commercial ships, including two Saudi Aramco oil tankers; the May 2019 Saudi pipeline attack and the Sept. 14, 2019, unprecedented drone hit on Saudi Aramco’s two major oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais; and the June 20, 2019, attack on a US RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone for which Trump intended to respond but reversed his decision, instead requesting a United Nations Security Council closed-door meeting on Iranian regional escalation. This pattern is why former US military commanders in the region, such as Gen. David Petraeus, have framed the Soleimani strike as a need to reestablish “deterrence.”

From a broader strategic perspective, for those unfamiliar with the region, the killing of Soleimani uncovers plenty of questions about the region’s politics and conflicts: Why in the world would Iran sponsor an irregular militia to attack a sovereign embassy, which Iraq as the host nation is required to protect? Why would Iran support the targeting of a neighbor’s military airbase, particularly when the world’s most powerful military force is on base? Broadening the aperture, why would Iran—with Soleimani as its operational mastermind—ally with Russia to support Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, since 2012, in the Syrian Civil War with brutal atrocities against his own people? Moreover, why would Iran seek to destabilize Yemen—supporting the Houthi insurgency—at Saudi Arabia’s doorstep, thus drawing the Gulf Arab states into the fray?

Welcome to the dynamics of proxy warfare and Soleimani’s signature strategy in the Middle East. At its core, Soleimani aimed to blend the power of the state (Iran, and its political power) with the dynamic activism of violent extremist and militant groups, much like the model of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as Middle East expert Ali Soufan observed. That strategy alone—where nonstate groups can draw on the power of a state—warrants a more disruptive response which utilizes all instruments of national power, including economics and kinetics.

Still one of the best strategic profiles of Soleimani is Dexter Filkins’s 2013 New Yorker essay, “The Shadow Commander” in which Filkins explains how Soleimani was shaped by the 1980s Iran-Iraq War (with its use of chemical weapons) and then tasked as early as 1998 to advance the 1979 Iranian Revolution and reshape the Middle East into the Shia Crescent zone of influence. As part of this vision, Soleimani went on—all at the same time—to help direct and fund Assad’s war in Syria, Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon, and the ongoing insurgencies against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq (since 2001).

Soleimani’s endgame was to reshape the Mideast into a zone of Iranian influence, thus, advancing the Iranian revolutionary flame ever forward. While this goal is by no means unique to Soleimani—Iran’s Supreme Leaders share this core aspiration—what was unique to the general was his powerful execution of this goal by building a vast covert organizational infrastructure of dozens of Iran-backed militant and terrorist organizations. These proxies and special groups have been increasing at rapid rates due to fighting against US coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in Syria and against Islamic State.

In light of Soleimani’s long-term signature strategy, it is not surprising to see successive US administrations designate these proxy and covert forces as terrorist organizations. On April 8, 2019, Soleimani’s IRGC and Quds Force were both designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, augmenting earlier Obama-era Treasury designations in 2007 and 2010. Likewise, in July 2009 under executive orders 13438 and 13224—covering those who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq—the Obama Administration designated Kata’ib Hezbollah a terrorist organization, the only Iraqi Shiite militia so designated by the US. Soleimani himself was a “specially designated national” (SDN) since 1999, again in 2010 under EO 13382, with additional sanctions after his foiled plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the United States.

Such tactics also were used at home. In early December the world witnessed an Iran “convulsed” by what The New York Times called its “worst unrest in 40 Years,” with anti-government protests across 21 cities. These protests were followed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “brutal crackdown”—with IRGC involvement—resulting in more than 1,500 protesters killed. Iranians were protesting rising fuel prices, the result of economic mismanagement and EU and US sanctions issued in response to IRGC provocations. These included the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which passed overwhelmingly by both houses in 2017 (including sanctions against Russia and North Korea).

There’s no doubt Soleimani will be replaced, but his successor will have very large strategic shoes to fill. Reports indicate that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has regrouped and will replace the head of its agile, covert militant network with Quds Force deputy Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani.

Governments in and beyond the region are collectively holding their breath, hoping that violence will not escalate. Some—such as Russia, Iran’s ally in Syria—criticized the US action and, in turn, praised Soleimani for having “faithfully served and defended the national interests of Iran.” Any realistic account must address the conflicting, multiperspectives in the region. In addition to celebrations among communities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere, journalist Kim Ghattas notes that Soleimani was not only a problem for the US, he “haunted the Arab world,” so his death has been greeted with often-quiet “elation.” While Iraq’s parliament will ask for the removal of US forces, some see the post-Soleimani moment as a win for a stronger Iraq. No doubt, US military servicemembers, directly targeted by the IRGC especially in Iraq, offer important insights.

Critics of this action will fixate once again on the Trump Administration’s strategy, positing the US as responsible for Mideast conflict and crisis. Some of these critics ignore Soleimani’s two decades of militant infrastructure-building or the audacity of Kata’ib Hezbollah to target its neighbor’s embassy and airbase. They also forget that KH Commander Muhandis—killed along with Soleimani—was the alleged mastermind of the US and French embassy bombings in Kuwait in 1983, as well as the assassination attempt on Kuwait’s emir in 1985. Such forces have been hard at work for a long time.

While we do not know what happens next, with Soleimani’s demise, Iran and its proxies have lost their strategic architect.

Corri Zoli’s Expertise in Demand as Media Make Sense of Iran Crisis

Corri Zoli, Director of Research for the Institute for Security Policy and Law, helped local media make sense of the Jan. 3, 2019, assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the subsequent Iran Crisis, and what this US military action means for the security of an already volatile Middle East region.

SU Professor: “Something Had to be Done” to Stop Gen. Soleimani’s Influence in Middle East Conflicts

WAER | Jan. 6, 2020

“Something had to be done. Former General David Petraeus was in the news the other day saying, listen, we had to reestablish deterrence somehow because the moves were getting more and more audacious. Closer and closer to US civilian populations, closer and closer to armed forces.”

Read more

SU Counterterrorism expert: Soleimani death may be more significant than Osama bin Laden

CNYCentral | Jan. 3, 2020

… Zoli says Soleimani had even greater military reach throughout the region. He was a man, Zoli says, who helped support unrest in Yemen, Syria and was a key figure behind insurgencies against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The IEDs were as a tactical strategy in the field was pioneered by Soleimani. So many American service members think of him as responsible for these,” Zoli said.

She says Soleimani was covert but calls him an operational mastermind who built an enormous infrastructure of terrorist groups throughout the Middle East …

Read more

What Led to Airstrike That Killed Iranian Military Commander?

Spectrum News | Jan. 3 2020

“I think everyone is holding their breath in the Middle East right now, there’s significant concern that there will be increased conflict, escalation, dynamics that will involve retaliation,” said Zoli. “There’s no doubt that the US is preparing for that.”

Read more